Monday, March 15, 2010

This New Lab: Desk Upgrade

My old desk was not really big enough, so I decided to get a new desk. I thought about building one from scratch, butI already have more projects than time as it is. So despite my better judgment, I bought a desk. The design of the desk is a modern marvel in the sense that it is surprisingly stable considering how loose the tolerances are.

The new desk didn't come with a keyboard drawer, so the one from the previous desk was moved over.

The desk has a built in USB hub which is kind of nice but they didn't ship a power supply for the hub. C'est la vie. As you may notice, this desk is not very powerful. It certainly can not supply 10 amps at 120 volts AC.

So, since I work on a lot of projects, it would be really useful to have a power outlet placed conveniently within reach. Another feature of this upgrade is that the switch allows me to conveniently turn off my speakers and LCD monitor and unused wall warts. As a design paradigm, I believe in energy conservation through convenience.

I have tried a few of these hacksaw blade handles, and the Stanley FatMax® Multi Saw is the best I have used so far. It tightly grips both regular hacksaw and reciprocal saw blades.

Due to the design of the desk, the best place to put the outlet is where the round wire management cover is located. Remove the cover and draw a rectangular hole for the outlet.

Working from two different directions helps make the hole rectangular.

Drilling an additional hole might help speed up matters.

The same technique that is shown here can be used to make rectangular holes in cases.

Keep going, almost done sawing.

The outlet box now fits perfectly into the hole. The extra gap will be covered up by the wall plate and ensures that the box fits without force.

If you are lucky the outlet box will have slots to make removing the metal plugs easier.

This is a nice power strip with a metal case and intelligently spaced outlets.

This power strip will be controlled by the switch on the front of the desk.

Before we go any further then now might be a good time to talk about safety, before you claim that you cut the extension cord while it was plugged in because that is what the internets told you to do.

Safety is important, but these warning labels are crazy. Do they really think people are going to read these labels? It is like these labels are written by lawyers, for lawyers. Avoid overheating!?!? How about, "If the cable is warm to the touch, you have too much stuff plugged into the extension core. Unplug stuff or get a thicker extension cord". They helpfully suggest that you should not plug in more then the specified number of watts that the cord is rated for, which was printed on the packaging, which you threw out. The one I love the best though is "DO NOT REMOVE THIS TAG". I think I'll follow that one.

Despite the inantiy of the legal mumbo jumbo, there is a point to safety. Electricity can kill you, and the evil Thomas Edison once used it to kill an elephant in one of his battles with the great Nikola Tesla. Regardless, you should avoid working on live circuits because if you grab a live wire, your muscles will lock up and you won't be able to let go or scream for help while you painfully die of electrocution. If you must work on a live circuit have a friend standing by to hit you with a wood 2x4 or broom so that you stop holding the wire, and they can call an ambulance which may or may not be able to save you. If you are starting a project that you have never done before, ask for help, there are many people out there in the world that would be happy to help you avoid death by electrocution. There are also lots of books (DANGER: Books Are Flammable) that contain information (DANGER: Information is a Virus) that might be able to help you understand the real safety issues involved.

Please don't die, and if you must die, don't blame me. Please follow your local electrical codes when working on projects like this.

If you have extra extion cord ends that you have not turned into mini extention cords, you can use those. Otherwise, cut an extension cord to length.

Cut the other end so that the desk can plug into the wall with a reasonable amount of slack.

Attach both end of the extension cord to the outlet box, and recycle the unused cable.

Read the instructions that came with the outlet and connect the wires as needed. The outlet might be wired differently than you expect. Ask someone knowledgeable if you don't understand.

A circuit tester is less than $10 and can help make sure that your outlet is wired properly before it blows up your computer because you didn't test the outlet first.

It can also be used to make sure your switch works as you expect it to and as an added bonus it can help you check that the electrician correctly wired your wall outlet to begin with.

Here is the outlet mounted in the desk.

This shows the outlet with the cover attached.

On the back of the desk the power strip is now connected to the switch.

Here is the back of the outlet box.

The cabling mess has been significantly decreased.

The wire management hole cover can be relocated with the use of a hole saw.

Hopefully you didn't cut the extension cord and electrocute yourself because you left the cord plugged in.

Power and convenience, what more could anyone want in a desk, besides a cup holder to prevent unfortunate incidents.


whiskers said...

Great post! Nice KRK monitors too!
What kind of desk is it? Mine is super-flimsy and is getting crowded...

I Heart Robotics said...

I'm not sure how much I want to recommend it though since at least one of the 1/4 turn cam locks broke during assembly. Though it is fairly stable despite that. So it is a bit of a matter of you get what you pay for.

My next desk I'm going to make myself, I want to laser cut a model then scale it up to solid 1" thick pine.

Having the monitors that are at ear level provides a fairly good stereo image.

Gerard Freeman said...


I Heart Robotics said...

The desk is still fine a year and a half later.

deadbeef said...


I think to buy the same desk. Unfortunatelly, can't find specs for this desk.

Do you know what is the height from floor to keyboard tray you installed? I'm going to install keyboard tray, but it should fit to my chair.


I Heart Robotics said...

The bottom of desk is 28.25" above the floor.